What’s the Deal With the Clown Problem in Wasco, California?
If you’re a member of the Wasco California Police Department, you’ve had an interesting week. Wasco, near Bakersfield, has been all over the news for an interesting problem it’s having. But is it actually a problem, or a weird hoax turned viral?
Google it and you’ll see a bunch of headlines about crazy clowns terrorizing the town and stalking people. Here’s a news report showing some of the images:
I’ve never been particularly scared of clowns, but it’s hard to find those images anything other than disturbing. The story has been widely covered by a bunch of networks and websites with the perspective that a bunch of people are dressing up as maniacal clowns and then wandering around Wasco and neighboring towns scaring the shit out of people.
The details here are really hard to untangle, but what we do know is at least some of the pictures being attributed to this craze are from an art project created by a Wasco artist and her husband. She photographed him dressed as a clown in different places — a fun and creepy art piece. Then, the pictures started spreading, especially on social media. Someone made a Wasco Clown Facebook page, ostensibly at this point still referring to the art subject.
At some point, some people may have started co-opting the viral pictures and actually dressing up as clowns and posing around the area, sometimes with bats or other things that could be possibly be used as weapons. There are claims of 20 or so sightings in recent days, and a 14-year-old boy was just arrested for dressing up like a clown and then scaring a child in his neighborhood. He has been cited with “annoying a minor.”
News networks have taken the coverage of these disturbances and run with them — understandably so. It’s a few weeks before Halloween. Clowns are creepy, and pretty consistent horror movie fodder. Apparently there’s something called “Coulrophobia,” which means fear of clowns — though it isn’t completely accepted as a real phobia, despite the large number of people who get the heebie-jeebies from red noses and curly wigs.
Theories vary about why clowns unsettle people so much, and really the phenomenon is strange — I don’t think I can think of a figure who walks the line so fluidly between humor and fun and fear and loathing. No one is really sure why clowns have occupied that place in our collective psyche, although a prevailing theory seems to attribute it to what clowns are at their essence: something dark and grotesque writ humorous. After all, with a clown we never know what’s under the mask? And they invoke the question, why would a normal person want to look and act that way?
But back to Wasco — what’s really going on there? Police truly aren’t saying much beyond that this is just an internet hoax that’s made its way mainstream and is gaining copycats. With the exception of the 14-year-old boy who scared his neighbor, there haven’t been any arrests. There’s also been no indication of violence. Wasco police are checking out the reports of course, but there’s no indication this is anything different than say, the trend of planking a few years back. The reason for the news coverage appears to be mostly sensationalism and morbid fascination. So anyone in the Bakersfield area, don’t worry, your town isn’t turning into a scene from “It” anytime soon.
Unless, of course the Wasco clowns have the police department hostage and are forcing them to say these things….
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [John Ryan Brubaker via Flickr]